There will be no first-year players participating in Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans, but two of last year’s stud rookies — Anthony Davis and Damian Lillard — will showcase their talents for the Western Conference All-Stars.
Watching these young phenoms on Sunday is a friendly reminder that rookies can always have an impact on the game, whether it be in real basketball or fantasy hoops.
The Philadelphia 76ers Michael Carter-Williams and the Orlando Magic’s Victor Oladipo are easily the standout rookies in the NBA this year, but as the season winds down, more players from the 2014 draft class will start to emerge.
The Boston Celtics’ Kelly Olynyk and the Milwaukee Bucks’ Nate Wolters are two rookies who are primed to break out in the second half of the season and should be added in all competitive fantasy basketball leagues of 12 teams or more.
» Kelly Olynyk, C, Boston Celtics:
The Dallas Mavericks selected Olynyk with the 13th overall pick of the 2014 NBA Draft, but immediately shipped him to Boston for the rights to Lucas Nogueira and two future second round picks — a move that was received very well among the Celtic faithful.
A fantastic Summer League performance (18.0 points, 7.8 rebounds) for the Celtics had Olynyk labeled as a potential fantasy sleeper, but a slow start to the regular season found him back on most waiver wires.
As of Sunday, Olynyk was owned in just 1.1 percent of ESPN.com fantasy leagues — but that needs to change.
By hoarding draft picks and unloading pricey vets, Celtics President Danny Ainge has masterfully crafted this team to win in the future — and go in “tank mode” now. With that in mind, Ainge and coach Brad Stevens had no reason to rush Olynyk into a big role early on, but that will change very soon.
Olynyk is averaging a lackluster 6.9 points and 4.7 rebounds this season, but with a usage rate of 19.1 (fourth among rookies), things are bound to turn around for the 22-year-old.
His last four games seem to be a move in that direction, as Olynyk has scored 11.5 points and grabbed 9.0 boards, while draining two 3-pointers and dishing out 10 assists. His 25.0 minutes of playing over that stretch also marks a substantial increase over his season average of 18.5 minutes per game. As a center who can shoot the three (0.7 made per 36), he could have a ton of value in the fantasy playoffs.
With the Celtics going young, guys like Brandon Bass and Kris Humphries could be traded — potentially opening up a spot in the starting five for the former Gonzaga Bulldog. All signs point to Olynyk trending upwards, and as a fantasy owner you’d be wise to grab him off the waiver wire.